Activists are using advertisements to tell the Russians the real news about Ukraine

Activists are using advertisements to tell the Russians the real news about Ukraine

Many ads are triggered by a “news and media website” Ukrainian warwhile others are run by a “social media agency” Safe Ukraine. They include emotional videos captured Russian soldiers who call their parents home in tears to discover the reality of war, with a text urging Russians to speak out against the war. The project is led by Bohdana, a 33-year-old from the city of Lutsk in northwestern Ukraine who refused to share her last name.

Another mass campaign is organized by the Ukrainian department of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). “We are trying to give more information about the real situation, because in Russia there is a very strict control of information and there are no independent media,” said Anastasia Bajdachenko, executive director of the IAB of Ukraine.

In the first week of the war, the Ukrainian advertising industry’s campaign largely operated on Google’s advertising network — although it recently hit the buffer with a request from Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state media regulator, to stop spreading what Russia considered “misinformation” about its activities in Russia. March 4 Google has accepted this request, temporarily suspends the possibility of booking ads in Russia. “The situation is developing rapidly,” the company said in a statement.

The action canceled some of the plans of the group supported by the IAB. However, Baydachenko argues that Roskomnadzor’s decision to deal with the ads is a sign of the effectiveness of the IAB campaign.

The campaign, in which each large number of different accounts spent small sums of money with Google to target demographic categories likely to include mothers of Russian soldiers, will now be switched to Yandex. “We understand that using Yandex is high risk because of its control,” she says. “So it’s a long way off, but we’re going to try to do that to build reach for our messages.”

Baydachenko says there are about four or five more Ukrainian initiatives run by self-established groups in the early days of the war. “We are all trying to reach the Russian audience with different messages,” she said.

The IAB campaign is financed by private companies, as well as donations and sponsors, who are ready to invest large sums in attempts to overcome the horrors of what is happening in Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s army. “Owners of Ukrainian companies understand that we have a crisis here,” says Bajdachenko. “They are willing to spend $ 10,000, $ 20,000, $ 30,000 or $ 50,000 to communicate and bring information to Russia.”

In total, Baydachenko estimates, 10 million hryvnia ($ 330,000) was spent on advertising campaigns based in Ukraine in an attempt to get more honest information to Russia last week. These are all what Agnes Venema, an academician for national security and intelligence at the University of Malta, calls “the 2022 version of the underground newspaper”. “People have discovered that they can beat Putin in his game by countering misinformation in a way that allows any Russian with an Internet connection to see it,” she said.

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